2016 is the 150th anniversary of the much-loved children's author's birth.

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1. Although the Lake District is the area best associated with Beatrix Potter, she was actually born in Kensington, West London.

2. Her first name was actually Helen, but she chose to go by her more preferred and unusual middle name.

3. She never went to schoool. Instead, she was looked after by a stern Scottish governess, Ann Mackenzie, until she was 6, before another governess took over and taught her lessons until the age of 17.

4. Of school, Potter said: ‘Thank goodness I was never sent there [to school] it would have rubbed off some of the originality‘.

5. But she lived a lonely life until her brother Bertram was born in 1872. Her parents Rupert and Helen discouraged her from mixing with other children as they thought this would make their daughter susceptible to illnesses and bad influences.

6. The two siblings kept many pets. Their nursery was home to a frog called Punch, newts, two lizards, a tortoise, caged birds, bats, a hedgehog, a snake called Sally which later escaped, and snails.

7. Rupert Potter encouraged his daughter to draw and gave her his own sketches for her to copy. Beatrix began art lessons at the age of 12 and was meticulous, learning everything she could about nature in order to be thorough.

8. Like many teenagers, the young Beatrix kept a diary. But to keep it away from prying eyes, she wrote it in a code so difficult the contents of her journal weren’t deciphered until 1958, 15 years after her death.



9. She first visited the Lake District when she was 16 and fell in love with the area.

10. Beatrix Potter loved drawing fungi and lichens, and her drawings of them were very scientific and technical.

11. A leading expert in this area, she was the first person to document a rare fungus – Tremella simplex. In 2014, the fungus was found growing on a National Trust estate in Aberdeenshire.

12. In 1890, Potter bought a rabbit. She named him Benjamin Bouncer, and was often seen walking him about on a leash.

13. He was the inspiration for her most famous book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The story began life as a letter Potter wrote to a child in 1893.

14. Though the book is one of the most successful children’s stories of all time, it was actually rejected by several commercial publishers. She self-published the book in 1901.

15. In 1902 the book was republished by Frederick Warne & Co after Potter agreed to re-do her black and white illustrations in colour. By the end of its first year in print, it was in so much demand it had to be reprinted six times.

16. Now it is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. 45m copies have been sold worldwide and it has been translated into 36 languages.


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17. The 2006 film, Mrs Potter, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor tells the story of the love affair between Potter and her publisher Norman Warne. But in real life, they were doomed, as firstly her parents objected to Warne due to his ‘lowly’ social status.

18. Despite this, she accepted his proposal in July 1905. Tragically he suddenly died a month later due to a blood condition called pernicious anaemia.

19. In 1906, Potter bought Hill Top – a house in Cumbria with a 34-acre working farm. It was her writing retreat and the scene of many of her books, including The Tale of Tom Kitten and The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck.

20. In the last decades of her life, Potter became a Lakeland farmer, winning awards for her prize Herdwick sheep which lived in her farm.

21. She found love again at the age of 47, marrying local solictor William Heelis.

22. Potter was a generous patron of the Girl Guides. She let local troops have their summer camps on her land.

23. When she died in 1943 aged 77, she left her land to the National Trust. Beatrix Potter’s House is now a top tourist destination.

24. It seems Potter will become a best-seller yet again. In 2015 a manuscript for an unpublished book was discovered in the Victoria and Albert Museum archive. The book, which is called The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots will be illustrated by Quentin Blake. It will be published on 1 September 2016, by Penguin Random House Children’s Books.


What is your favourite Beatrix Potter book? Let us know in the comments below…